Using Powerpoint Presentations In A Language Classroom

Using PowerPoint Presentations in a Language Classroom

If you teach in a language classroom (ESL or any other language really), eventually you will ask your students to do an in-class presentation. Presentations are a great way for students to showcase their abilities and gain confidence using their new language in a stressful yet safe environment.

In most situations, the purpose of asking a language student prepare and perform a presentation is so that they can demonstrate their abilities to:

• choose their topics
• generate ideas by brainstorming
• then logically organize and show they can
• make sensible relationships between them
• use intelligible English in front of an audience
• all within a specific time frame

These are all very important skills, for a language learner who intended to peruse a career in business or in academics. For most language students just being able to accomplish these tasks in a new language is a great feat in itself – forget about complicating the process with posters and software like PowerPoint.

However, after nearly 15 years of teaching, I have found that the first thing students want to do is use PowerPoint. I think in most cases they feel that they will be more ‘impressive’. Regardless of the reasons, when students decide to use a software tool like PowerPoint, their focus changes from preparing a good presentation towards building the slides. As a result many problems crop up. Some of the most common traps you will see students falling into include:

• Including more text than needed
• Adding in distracting sliding visuals and sounds
• not practicing enough (because they use the slides as a crutch)
• reading slides word for word
• looking at the screen more than the audience
• having compatibility issues with the software

What so often ends up happening is that the technology gets in the way of the student putting on a decent presentation. Now I’m not blaming the technology here, the problem comes from lack of experience with both the technology and also with giving presentations. These problems are not limited to language learners by any means. Native English speakers who aren’t very experienced have very similar issues as well. However they can become a very bad combination for a language learner who is also trying to cope with language problems.

Regardless of whether you are a language student, or a native language speaker, you really want to avoid:

1. handing out the slides on paper, then
2. putting the same slides up for the audience to read and then
3. reading the slides out loud as your presentation.

This would simply be a waste of everyone’s time.

So should language learners use PowerPoint as a tool for giving presentations? Well I think the answer to that is a qualified ‘yes’. Before they do, they need to be reasonably comfortable with the language they are studying. Then they need to have some instruction/guidance in developing content and presenting it with PowerPoint. Once they’ve had that, they will be more capable of controlling the technology instead of being controlled by it.

Using Powerpoint Presentations In A Language Classroom 6.9 of 10 on the basis of 1891 Review.